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If you want to find out how good a NFL team really is, watch them in crunch time. A dwindling clock and a deficit on the scoreboard will show you their true colors: they’ll either rise to the challenge or flop flat on their face.

The same way a missing power cord and slowly-draining laptop battery has given me an hour and 16 minutes to write this week’s NFL Underdogs column. How good will my Week 14 picks be? How many spelling and grammar errors will have to be edited out?

Oh, crap, 1 hour and 12 minutes…

One team that has crumbled in crunch time is the Los Angeles Chargers, who couldn’t shake that lawn chair mentality (fold up and go home) even after the move from San Diego. Over the past few seasons, the Bolts have watched more than a few late-game leads and tightly contested fourth quarters morph into a tick in the loss column.

They nearly added another collapse to their resume against the Browns last week, allowing Cleveland to hang around all game. While Los Angeles still got the 19-10 win it couldn’t do enough in the fourth quarter to cover the 13.5-point spread and gave Browns backers (if they even exist) just their third ATS victory of the season – the first since Week 7 – and only their sixth ATS payday over the past two years.

An ATS loss to Cleveland should really be treated like a defeat on the season, and if not it’s definitely a sign that the sky might be falling. The Bolts have played some solid football the past two months, winning six of their last eight but it’s not enough to suppress years of wobbly knees in the championship rounds.

Washington has 10 days to prep for this trip to L.A. after a rough Thursday night showing against a desperate Dallas team last week. Before that game, the Redskins had split their previous four games with losses to Minnesota and New Orleans – two teams with a combined 19 wins on the season. Before the Thursday nighter, Washington had played tough on the road and comes into Week 14 with a 12-5 ATS mark in its last 17 away games.

Yeesh, only 48 minutes left. “Battery saver mode” my ass…

Pick: Redskins +6

Philadelphia Eagles at Los Angeles Rams (+2.5, 48)

This will be my third straight week going against the Rams in this column, playing the Saints in Week 12 and the Cardinals in Week 13. After back-to-back ATS losses, you’d think I’d have learned my lesson, but when else is a strictly underdogs column going to see a 10-win team getting the points?

I’ve said this before, while the Rams look amazing at times, I am not sold on their resume. Save for the Saints win, the only other victories that impress me are wins over Jacksonville and Dallas.

The Eagles haven’t face too much competition either, playing a series of broken teams in the five games before last week’s loss in Seattle. However, when Philadelphia did beat those bad teams, it beat the living snot out of them – and covered along the way.

With Christmas shopping in full swing, bringing out the bargain hunter in all of us, I just can’t turn away from a good deal. Do I really want the Eagles here? Maybe not. Can I pass up the points on a team this good? No, no I cannot.

Pick: Eagles +2.5

Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants (+4)

The Giants have been left for dead a few times this season, and each time they shocked football bettors with sudden signs of life – like the “sloth” scene in Seven. Good lord, that scared the hell out of me.

In Week 6, after a 0-5 start to the schedule and losing Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall, New York was a 13.5-point underdog in Denver (hard to believe the Broncos were faves that big), and left Mile High with a 23-10 victory.

Then, after losing to the winless 49ers in Week 9, the G-Men were 10-point home pups hosting Kansas City. Again, N.Y. defied logic and knocked off the Chiefs in an ugly 12-9 overtime affair.

And in Week 13, with face of the franchise Eli Manning benched and head coach Ben McAdoo ablaze, a Geno Smith-led Giants team fought valiantly as 10-point underdogs in Oakland, losing 24-17 but covering the spread.

McAdoo is gone, replaced by Steve Spagnuolo, and Manning is back under center for a classic NFC East rivalry with the Cowboys. The Giants don’t have much to play for other than pride. Well, pride and derailing Dallas’ hopes of a NFC wild card spot.

Would have loved to get this line at the opener of Giants +6, but I’m happy getting more than the field goal.

Pick: Giants +4

And with nine minutes of battery juice to spare!

Last week: 1-2 ATS
Season: 17-21-1 ATS

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